The Buddha, being truly worthy of respect, never judges by the size of one’s offerings. In the past, the boy Virtue Victorious offered a mud pie to the Buddha, and was reborn as King Ashoka and ruled over all of Jambudvīpa. A poor woman cut off her hair and sold it to buy oil [for the Buddha], and not even the winds sweeping down from Mount Sumeru could extinguish the flame of the lamp fed by this oil. Accordingly, your offerings of two and three strings of coins are far greater even than those of the ruler of Japan, who may offer the nation and build a pagoda adorned with the seven kinds of treasures that reaches to the heaven of the thirty-three gods.
A single character of the Lotus Sutra is like the great earth, which gives rise to all things. A single character is like the great ocean, which contains the water from all rivers. A single character is like the sun and moon, which illuminate all four continents.
This single character changes and [becomes the moon. The moon changes and] becomes a Buddha. Rice plants change and become seedlings. Seedlings change and become stalks. Stalks change and become rice. Rice changes and becomes a person. And a person changes and becomes a Buddha. A woman changes and becomes the single character myō. The character myō changes and becomes Shakyamuni Buddha seated on a lotus pedestal.
“The Poor Woman’s Lamp” appears in the Prophecy of Buddhahood for King Ajātashatru Sutra. The version recounted here is different in some particulars. According to the sutra, an old woman in Magadha had always desired to make an offering to the Buddha, but could not fulfill her wish because of her poverty. One day she learned that King Ajātashatru was donating a great quantity of oil to the Buddha for lamps. Deeply impressed, she cut off her hair but could only buy oil for a single lamp. Then, though the lamps offered by King Ajātashatru all eventually went out, her lamp alone continued to burn throughout the night.